Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 4           March, 1999

Rustles of Spring

Ordinarily, we title this issue "Winterset," but this year we experienced such a paltry winter that there is nothing to set. With almost no precipitation between solstice and equinox, the country hereabouts is ready to blow away in the wind. There are people who complain about rainy days. We wish they could send us a few.

It is possible to say that the revolution in pistolcraft in the 20th century began with Fairbairn in China, though his pioneering did not achieve wide acceptance. In the 30s the FBI created the so-called Practical Pistol Course, which was a step forward in that it departed from conventional bullseye shooting and sought to impart tactical skills. The effort was primitive and did not get very far, but at least it was a start. Then in 1948, Cooper and Taft began experimenting with courses of marksmanship related to the realistic use of the sidearm. This resulted in the "Advanced Military Combat Pistol Course," which was printed up in an Army field manual. This was another step, but it was by no means the answer. In 1959 the Bear Valley Gunslingers were established in California with the avowed purpose of introducing realism and variety into sporting pistol competition. In due course the Gunslingers evolved into the Southwest ("Combat") Pistol League, spreading the game out over the Southwest and conducting matches in all sorts of different venues.

The purpose of all this was to "get real" and to evaluate the systems by which fighting skills with the handgun could be properly evaluated and rewarded. The next step was IPSC (the International Practical Shooting Confederation) founded in 1976 in Columbia, Missouri, in an attempt to spread the new doctrine worldwide.

There were serious problems here.
  1. Any international competition must submit itself to the jurisdiction of the nation in which it is held. Certain useful techniques are viewed askance, or in some cases forbidden, in countries where the nature of the art is not fully understood - and that includes most of them.
  2. Pistolcraft is by nature a fighting art, and in our increasingly emasculate century fighting is held to be politically incorrect. (We had to extract the word "Combat" from the title of the Southwest Combat Pistol League because it offended the California Secretary of State. The poor fellow!)
  3. The gamesmen appeared. These are the people who are more interested in competition than they are in excellence. As long as the nature of competition is kept as realistic as possible this is not a serious matter, but it became apparent that while perhaps 40 percent of competitors were interested in practical pistolcraft, about 60 percent were interested only in trophies and free trips. In theory, IPSC was a good idea, but it came to pass that despite even the extraordinary talents and efforts of President Jean-Pierre Denis, the gamesmen won.
This whole business was not a total failure, however. We did, over a period of some 30 years, discover the best techniques and systems for the use of the combat handgun. This knowledge is now universally available, although a great many people, especially in law enforcement, do not seem to realize this. The doctrine, however, is there. It has saved countless lives. It is a good thing. As the millennium bows out, we can take satisfaction in that.

Thomas Sowell, who is one of our favorite pundits, opines that the Great Acquittal was the greatest national disaster since Pearl Harbor. I would go one step further and say that the Great Acquittal was the greatest disaster in the history of the Republic. It established that the moral and ethical principles on which the Republic is founded do not necessarily work. Pearl Harbor was a nasty blow, but it was not a disaster. We lost some thousand people and millions of dollars worth of obsolescent equipment, but we found our soul, and we closed ranks to victory. The Great Acquittal suggests that we have lost our soul. The facts were all there, but the facts were unimportant in view of perceived need to be re-elected. According to this doctrine, principle does not matter. Facts do not matter. Morality does not matter - as long as the Party prevails.

Well, Alcibiades told us that democracy would not work some four centuries before Christ, but he was only a dead, white male.

Shooting Master John Gannaway ran the new "high energy" ammunition from Federal through the Scout. The 180-grain bullet left the 19-inch barrel at an average speed of 2651fps. Pre-war 30-06/180s left a 24-inch barrel at right on 2700. Thus it appears that your Scout rifle performs like a full-house 30-06. Who could ask for anything more!

John continues his swath-cutting amongst the shotgunners, and he not only shoots like a champion, but he knows why. Following his advice we recommend the book "More Shotguns and Shooting" by Michael MacIntosh (Country Sport Press, Selma, Alabama 36701). This work is not only completely authoritative, but most attractively written.

Our neighbor Dr. Joel Eisenberg was recently mugged by an obstreperous javelina while taking his after-dark constitutional. There he was, wandering around in the dark (without his pistol), when this mean little pig tried to run him off the place. If a man chooses to wander around unarmed that is his affair, but he should not be surprised if things do not always turn out as he expected. Fortunately no blood was shed on either side, though there was a good deal of shouting and gnashing of teeth.

We all note and mourn the passing of Carlos Hathcock, the renowned Marine Corp sniper from Vietnam. Here is a man who truly got out of his rifle everything that it was intended to do.

I have recently noticed certain writings and comments on the subject of sniping which suggest that the sniper is some kind of a social outcast who does things for which he should be ashamed. I do not understand this, and I wonder how much basis there is in it. I asked a couple of experienced combat Marines about this, and all I got was unbelieving laughter. To quote the redoubtable Nathan Bedford Forrest, "War means fighting and fighting means killing." I thought everybody knew that. Of course I have always thought about sniping in connection with war. When it comes to shooting housewives in the face at 200 yards, we have something else to think about. One wonders how Horiuchi sleeps at night.

The following from Paul Harvey:
1950. Salt causes hypertension.
1960. Salt does not cause hypertension.
1970. Salt causes hypertension.
1980. Salt relieves hypertension.
1998. The AMA Journal concludes that salt does not affect hypertension in any way.
We are at the mercy of the age of communication. Anybody can say anything and everybody is encouraged to believe it. Ain't fads wonderful!

Since recreational shooting is as subject as any other activity to fadism, the shooting industry goes right in there producing fad guns. This taste for nostalgia in shooting sports suggests various new ways of going backwards with our playthings. As an example, it was recently suggested to me that we ought to produce a series of good, sound double rifles with exposed hammers - in suggested calibers 30-30, 30-40, and 45-70. As we know, double rifles are expensive to produce, but I think that modern manufacturing techniques are available to meet that challenge. I think a double 30-30 would be just the ticket for the Pennsylvania woods, and a double 45-70 for Alaska. (This idea was suggested to me by a correspondent, Bob Thompson of Virginia.)

I have been pushing hard for border signs on the Mexican line informing motorists that they are now entering a land where they are no longer protected by the US Constitution - most specifically the second amendment thereto - and giving full credit to the National Rifle Association. I would like to emphasize to the motoring public what they owe the National Rifle Association.

When Sue Hildebrand, of Davis, California, was exercising her brand new Steyr Scout on a public range, she was approached by a bench-rester in an adjoining bay who expressed strong interest in her unusual weapon. When Sue explained about the rifle, this sportsman recoiled in horror, saying, "But that's just designed to kill people." She responded, "Possibly, under certain circumstances." And he bounced back with, "But that's Jeff Cooper's idea, and he is a bad guy."

I find this pretty exciting. I did not know that anybody knew about me in California, or knew further that the scout rifle was my idea. I am flattered by all of this, but it is still depressing to find that there are shooters who do not understand that all shooters are on the same team.

It appears that the pigs are about to inherit the earth. As we have mentioned, there are too many pigs in France, and too many pigs in Australia. Here at Gunsite, we have too many pigs for our neighbors up the road, and now we learn that there are too many pigs in, of all places, San Francisco! I guess they wander in from the parks and roll drunks, or something. But you cannot shoot them, even though the meat would be most welcome. The bambiists are very strong in the Bay region.

Note that Lyman is now producing tang sights for most of the Winchester lever guns. The tang sight works out as a nifty ghost-ring, and I have always been puzzled that it is not more widely appreciated.

The forest service people tell us that here in Arizona, due to the drought, we may expect a considerable increase in bear contacts as the beasts take further advantage of campers and garbage cans. Bears seem to be on the increase everywhere, as do moose. To the best of my knowledge and belief, all wild quadrupeds are increasing, with the exception of the grizzly, the bighorn, and the mule deer in some of its ranges. This must cause much wringing of hands amongst the bambiists, who hate the thought of anyone enjoying the proliferation of wild game.

If any of the faithful are planning to sign up for Zimbabwe this year, be advised that Comrade Mugabe is in a snit. When he set about expropriating white farmers throughout the land, several nations threatened to hold up on his blood money. This fills him with rage, and while he needs your money, he does not like you on that account.

Bumper sticker:
"Clean up your filthy lucre. Launder your money!"

Can it be that it is time for a revolver revolution? When we pioneered the semi-auto revolution back in the 50s, we did so with the notion that the self-loader is easier to hit with than the revolver, and in addition provides more stopping power for equivalent weight and bulk. Back at Big Bear we discovered that in order of efficiency the number one sidearm was the major-caliber self-loader. The number two was a major-caliber revolver. The number three was a minor-caliber self-loader, and number four was a minor-caliber revolver. We did not realize that with the course of time the law enforcement establishment would latch onto number three as the best choice. Furthermore we did not realize that while we at Big Bear were intensely interested in improving our skills, the great mass of law enforcement personnel was not. The recreational shooter seeks excellence, but few people in uniform are recreational shooters. On the contrary, the mechanical problems involved in using the self-loader seem to be excessive for the public servant, who often regards his profession as nothing more than a job. It would be nice if most cops were truly dedicated, but while some are, a great many are not. (Do not take my word for this, just ask around.) For a person who is not interested in shooting, a revolver is probably a better weapon than an automatic pistol. This is because it is essentially simpler and does not call for any mechanical aptitude on the part of its user. There is certainly no difficulty in mastering the intricacies of the self-loader, provided one is interested in its operation. However for the public official who simply does not care about shooting, it is probable that the wheel-gun is a better choice.

We are much annoyed to learn of customers who are ordering Scout rifles without scoutscopes. The scoutscope, with its long eye relief, is one of the many outstanding attributes of the weapon combination. To hang a target scope on a Scout is a sort of technological perversion, but while it is unpleasant to contemplate, there is no law against it. In that connection, however, we note that very few people seem to be using the leopard-light as an after-market accessory on the SS. There are not many leopards hereabouts, but on the other hand that light is immensely useful for doing night sweeps of your backyard. Wherever you put your illumination there is the reticle sharp and clear right in the middle. I suppose there are not too many people who do backyard sweeps as a general thing, but for those of us who do that leopard light is ours to choose.

One of the most attractive pieces to appear recently at a gun show was a beautifully reconstituted Model 95 Winchester in caliber 35 Whelen. We had forgotten how huge that Model 95 is, since we have been playing with those same ballistics in the 350 Short Magnum. We have better guns than the Model 95 today, but the nostalgia effect grows all the time, and this piece really should show up in one of the "Let's Pretend" matches hereabouts.

When colleague Mark Terry was recently reproached by a bunny hugger for his enthusiasm for hunting, he announced that he would mend his ways. "All right, since you think that hunting is cruel, I'll turn over a new leaf. I won't shoot to kill anymore, I'll just shoot to wound."

The wilderness is still wild. It is not kind and gentle. The challenge of the wilderness is its very wildness, and people who do not understand the spice of danger should learn about that before they leave the pavement. The recent episode in Uganda was very bad indeed, and it is good to learn that the culprits were evidently swiftly brought to justice. The fact remains that these people took off into the bush without being ready to do so. I have always liked boondocking, and I have run into situations several times in which my readiness to face the hazards of the wild were of great importance. I have never had to defend myself against a wild beast which I had not provoked, but I have six times found myself in confrontation with wild men, and I know of a dozen other people who have had the same experience. Let us preach: Do not place yourself in harm's way unless you are prepared to face hazard. And do not do so unless you are armed. If you cannot be armed, do not go.

We were informed by family member Curt Rich of a friend who has faced up to this problem of "Y2K" by adjusting Y 2 K. He has now re-labeled his calendars Januark, Februark, March, April and Mak.

Evidently the establishment is now rediscovering General Julian Hatcher.

As you know, the socialist Australian government has recently collected 640 thousand personal firearms to be destroyed (at a cost of about 500 million dollars). As a result of that after 12 months in all Australia homicides are up 3.2 percent, assaults are up 8.6 percent, and armed robberies are up 44 percent.

In the State of Victoria, however, things are somewhat different, because during this 12-month period homicides with firearms are up 300 percent!

This sort of thing is only to be expected, but do not try to be reasonable with a hoplophobe. By definition hoplophobia is a mental affliction and not subject to reasoned argument.

What do you hear about SPC New?

We received the cheerful news that a cougar was recently sighted just down the road in Chino Valley. Cougars are nice people. We will see if we cannot set up a supply of joggers for them.

We expect to run a short "Safari-Prep" tutorial up at Denver in April. We will let you know how it turns out.

Preconceptions are hard to alter. People who insist that intrinsic rifle accuracy is impossible with a short, light barrel are confused by the Steyr Scout. It is by now apparent that if the SS were only half as accurate as it is, it would still be twice as accurate as it need be.

Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal use only. Not for publication.